Science -- June 14, 2022: Minecraft, the highest-selling video game of all time, is not highly regarded by the gaming elite, despite its immense popularity. The aesthetics are blocky, and it serves no use. It is intended for children.
Nonetheless, according to millions of players, including some Concordia academics and students, Minecraft's versatility is its greatest asset. Unrestricted and easily adaptable, the game can be utilized in an infinite number of ways, including as a game-based instructional tool. The Minecraft universe has provided educators with a vast playground in which to play, experiment, and teach during a time when classrooms have had to pivot online with little warning or preparation.
A new article published in the journal Gamevironments by Darren Wershler, professor of English, and Bart Simon, associate professor of sociology and director of the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture, and Technology at Concordia University, describes how Wershler used Minecraft to teach a course on the history and culture of modernity. Instructions, in-class discussion, and course work were conducted nearly exclusively within the Minecraft universe and using the messaging application Discord. This innovative instructional framework allowed researchers to see how students utilized the game to achieve academic objectives.
Wershler, a Tier 2 Concordia University Research Chair in Media and Contemporary Literature, clarifies, The course is not a video game studies course, and it is not a gamified version of a course on modernity," explains Wershler, a Tier 2 Concordia University Research Chair in Media and Contemporary Literature. "It's this other thing that sits in an uncomfortable middle and brushes up against both. The learning comes out of trying to think about those two things simultaneously."
Familiar ideas, fresh understanding
The pupils rapidly adjusted to their unconventional classroom and wasted little time adjusting to their new learning environment. Some took the time to train their companions who were new with the game on how to mine resources, construct homes, produce food, and withstand waves of aggressive zombie and skeleton attacks. Others, who may not often identify as natural-born leaders, found themselves answering queries and providing direction due to their gaming expertise.
The students ultimately settled on Minecraft-based group projects and discussed the themes of modernity addressed in Wershler's thirty-minute audio lectures and readings. One group attempted to recreate Moshe Safdie's futuristic Habitat 67, which Wershler adds fits in perfectly with the style of Minecraft. On the basis of the Nakagin Capsule Tower Building in Tokyo, another group constructed a functioning city inhabited by Minecraft villagers.
Students were frequently killed by roaming enemies because the game was set to the more challenging Survival mode rather than the Creative mode preferred by many professors. The researchers downloaded fan-made modifications to enhance the game as they saw fit; nevertheless, the mods rendered the gameplay wonkier and more prone to unexpected crashes.
He confesses being pleasantly surprised at how successfully his students adapted to the parameters of the course he and a dozen other inter-disciplinary scholars at Concordia co-designed. Since 2014, Wershler has used Minecraft in his course, but he recently discovered that this method has provided a foundation for a new method of instruction.
"Educators at the high school, college and university levels can use these principles and tools to teach a whole variety of subjects within the game," he says. "There is no reason why we could not do this with architecture, design, engineering, computer science as well as history, cultural studies or sociology. There are countless ways to structure this to make it work."
Wnctimes by Marjorie Farrington
Cite This Page:
Concordia University. "A Minecraft build can be used to teach almost any subject: A course on modernity took place entirely within the game’s world and provided the framework for a new form of instruction." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 February 2022.